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Can 'national heritage' Rakhigarhi survive for long

With no landmarks or any sign boards to guide you, there is every possibility that you may miss one of the most archeologically important places in India-Rakhigarhi, a collective name given to the twin Haryana villages of Rakhi-khas and Rakhi-shahpur.

punjab Updated: Apr 18, 2015 17:02 IST
Ishtiyaq Sibtian Joo
Ishtiyaq Sibtian Joo
Hindustan Times
Haryana,Harappa civilisation,Rakhigarhi

With no landmarks or any sign boards to guide you, there is every possibility that you may miss one of the most archeologically important places in India-Rakhigarhi, a collective name given to the twin Haryana villages of Rakhi-khas and Rakhi-shahpur.

Spread over 350 acres of land Rakhigarhi is the biggest Harappan cities all across the world and it also the most important site of the Harappan civilization outside Mohenjodaro.

With less than 160 kms away from the country’s capital, the site has already made it to 10 most endangered heritage sites in Asia by the watchdog Global Heritage Fund due to official apathy.

The place which is attracting national as well as international tourists from all across the world could easily be misconstrued for business centre of dung cakes as ziggurats of dung cakes are found all across Rakhigarhi.

Guided by the locals you may end up at a digging site if you are visiting in between January and April. The digging in absence of any sign board appears like any other regular digging. However, on inquiring one gets briefed that it is an annual digging that Deccan College Post-Graduate and Research Institute, a deemed-to-be university in Pune is doing in collaboration with State Department of Archaeology Haryana.

This ancient city has nine localities which archeologists refer as mounds. The mounds are numerically named mound 1,2,3…and all have their significance in revealing various aspects of Harappan culture and civilization. Besides, they are also important from both historically as well as archaeologically point of view.

Presently digging is going on at mound 4. But even here piles of dung cakes are found.

Although, Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) is protecting Rakhigarhi as the national monument of the country, however, so far only 60 per cent of land is fenced by them.

Even the present digging site of mound 4 is fenced from one side only, while the villagers easily cross over the seat of old Harappan culture from the other three open sides.

Ironically mounds found in the private property of some villagers are at land owner’s mercy.

The callousness towards preserving national heritage is brazenly seen on mound 6. The mound which bears witness to how Harappans used to live is yet to be bought from the private owner of the land.

“Mound 6 is quite significant. Here we have found four different structures, which are made of mud, and mud bricks. Inside, them there is typical evidence of fire-place, which Harappans might have been using for cooking. Then we also found various pots there, which gives us impression that they were used for storage purposes,” informs Professor Vasant Shinde, Vice-Chancellor, Deccan College Post-Graduate & Research Institute, a deemed-to-be university in Pune, and also director of the current project team.

Ask the professor what if the owner of the land decides to demolish the site and wants to do farming or construct some structure there, optimistic Shinde says, “For first two years before starting this project, we were just meeting villagers to educate them about the importance of preserving the sites. Now they are convinced that land should be preserved,” the director said.

He even believes that farmers are ready to leave the land if given proper compensation.

There are reasons to believe the director project’s words, as it is the village panchayat which has come forward to donate the land of more than six acres of their land for the construction of museum here.

But then there are also instances where villagers or their children are still selling whatever, antiquates they find in the fields to the visitors at dirt price of Rs 100- Rs 200.

Rakhigarhi is a treasure trove of Harappan pottery, antiquities, terracotta bangles, various exotic stones, and different sizes of beads, figurines, toys, and now with the discovery of cemetery on mound 7, its significance has increased manifolds.

The latest finding of four 5000-year-old complete human skeletons which were found this year, has excited the Shinde and his team, and now they are in pursuit to extract DNA from them to unfold the mystery surrounding Harappans.

“These are some exciting times. The skeletons found out here have given us a new hope to decipher the mystery surrounding Harappans. Our preliminary observation has revealed that we may get DNA samples from the skeletons. If it happens, we can shed more light on physical appearance of Harappans by doing their 3-D reconstruction. We can figure out the colour of their skin, their eyes and other things,” says, Professor Shinde.

People have built houses over archaeological remains as much of the Harappan site at Rakhigarhi lies buried under the present-day village.

The director also along with this team is trying hard to make the Rakhigarhi significant on world map.

“Once the significance of site is recognized, which if all goes as per the plan may be next year, then, we can post it for candidature of world heritage site,” reveals the director.

However, to do that the site needs to be protected. Although ASI has posted two guards at one of the mounds, however, their existence also seems to be like a mystery as no one ever knows where they are, even when you look for them.

The Rakhigarhi has two Harappan stages, early Harappan phase, also called as Harappan culture stage dating back to 5500 BC- 2700 BC, and mature stage, also referred as stage of civilization dating from 2600 BC-2000 BC.

According to Dr. Shinde Harappan were very intelligent people as they were the pioneers to develop basic sciences and technologies.

“Traditional knowledge was developed by them and it continued till modern times, and is still relevant,” says, the archaeologist.

However, little did Harappans know that the place they lived and thrived for so many years, would fail to keep their remains.

With no state museum to hold the excavations from here, Deccan College Poona would keep Haryana’s treasure till the state will built one of its own.

“Whatever, remains extracted from here should remain here in the museum. However, till it is constructed, Deccan College will keep hold of the excavation products,” says, Shinde, who informs that the aim of the project was to develop the site into a tourism place of visitors from all over world to see.

Shinde and his team are planning to excavate a part of city like an open air museum and preserve it for general public. However, the big question that needs to be answered is if Rakhigarhi with no government support will survive that long.

First Published: Apr 18, 2015 15:16 IST